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Cricket World Cup

England win Cricket World Cup for the first time after match widely described as the sport's best ever game

  • England beat New Zealand by the slimmest of margins
  • New Zealand fell inches short of completing their winning run
  • England looked beaten but stage remarkable comeback in final over

At the start of this Cricket World Cup, I'll admit I couldn't care less about the sport. Its interminable length, propensity to be rained off (at least in this country) and the fact it's no longer shown on free-to-air TV.

This year's World Cup final proved me emphatically wrong with what is being described as the best ever ODI cricket match as England beat New Zealand in a dramatic finish.

New Zealand won the toss and decided to bat first, clocking up a middling total of 241 for eight wickets from their 50 overs. England just needed a cautious but confident batting performance to win at a canter.

However, devastating bowling from New Zealand saw the top half of England's batting order collapse. Jason Roy, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow who have all been crucial to England reaching the final went down to cheap wickets, and when captain Eoin Morgan, who set the record for the most sixes in an ODI match against Afghanistan earlier in the tournament, was caught having scored just nine runs, it seemed England had bottled it.

But Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler racked up a partnership of 110 runs to give England hope, and Stokes remained defiant in the final overs as England's required run-rate crept up steadily.

England then started to run into serious good fortune. Needing runs, Stokes tried to chip the ball for six, but hit it to a very catchable direction for the deep fielders at the boundary, but Boult didn't realise his proximity to the boundary and stepped backwards onto it, falling over. This meant the simple catch had instead gone for six!

England needed 15 from the final over, and England found themselves with an even more bizarre six. Stokes again hit a shot out to deep field, and as he and Rashid tried to make it back for their second run, the ball inadvertantly bounced off Stokes' bat, went past all of New Zealand's fielders and hit the boundary to add an extra four.

England lift the Cricket World Cup, courtesy of ICC
England lift the Cricket World Cup, courtesy of ICC

Stokes tried to persuade the umpire not let the boundary count, and if the ball had not hit the boundary the batsmen surely would not have run any more, but due to the rules of cricket the ball was still in play and New Zealand gambled with their last ditch fielding.

Needing 2 to win from the final ball, England could only manage the one before Wood was run out, tieing the match and forcing a super over for the first time in a World Cup match.

This meant each team would have one more over to bat with two wickets each and whoever had the higher score would win.

The commentary I listened to on Test Match Special was so panicked and excitable I could barely understand what was happening.

England went first and hit two fours as they made up a total of 15 runs. The same number they themselves had needed to win in the previous over.

Then it was New Zealand's turn. It turned out tieing the match would not be enough for them as the winner would then be whoever had hit more boundaries, which was England by a fair way.

They needed 16 to win. Jofra Archer bowled the final over and sent his first ball wide, gifting the Kiwis with an extra ball and point. His third ball was then hit for six, and it looked as though after having dragged themselves back into a match when it looked to be slipping from them, they were going to bottle it right at the death anyway.

New Zealand found themselves in the same position England had just two overs earlier. One ball left, two runs to win, except a tie was not an option, they had to go for it.

The ball was hit out towards deep field but didn't have the legs to reach the boundary. Jason Roy hurled it back to Buttler, the wicket keeper, as Guptill came charging back for the al-important second run. Buttler got there just in time, with inches to spare, getting the run out, restricting New Zealand to one run, and managing to win the game by virtue of hitting more boundaries.

 

 

It was the cricketing equivalent of winning by a penalty shootout, and England's players ran about delirious, running in circles, seemingly not knowing which way to go. Phil Tuffnel simply screamed on Test Match Special, while the stadium waited for the review, but England were sure they'd done it, and the New Zealand batsmen had sunk to their knees.

Confirmation came up on the screen as the volume peaked inside Lord's and England were officially crowned ODI Men's World Champions for the first time, joining the women's ODI team and both T20 teams to have won every professional senior cricketing world cup.

You have to feel for New Zealand, who would also have won this trophy for the first time with victory, but fell agonisingly short, having lost the 2015 final to Australia. While England had been favoured by the bookies before the tournament started, New Zealand had not really been tipped to qualify from the group stage, yet had surprised everyone with remarkable fielding that allowed them to defend modest batting totals.

It became a question of who could hold their nerve. Ben Stokes had to stay resolute as his batting partners fell one by one and New Zealand's bowlers had to stay resolute when being unable to dismiss him, while he dragged England back into the match.

New Zealand had to keep their heads up in the super overs after being pegged back unexpectedly in the final normal over, and England's Archer had to keep his calm after bowling a wide and conceding a six in the first half of his super over. 

 

 

In the end, Jason Roy who fumbled a piece of fielding in the super over that allowed New Zealand to claim a second run, when faced with a similar ball, didn't lose his head and managed to deliver it perfectly to Buttler who took that final wicket to send England into raptures.

During the last hour of the match few of the fans inside Lord's remained seated, people paced up and down, fans at home hid behind their sofas, or amused passers-by like I did by animatedly listening to the match commentary on headphones, head in hands despite not being able to see the game.

This match will have done wonders for the popularity of cricket, so tense, so entertaining for the neutral. Channel 4 broadcast the match live, the first free-to-air live cricket broadcast in the UK since the 2005 Ashes series. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a spike in sale of cricket sets and gear now, and over the rest of the summer we see plenty of kids playing in parks across the country.

There is also the opportunity for more people to get into cricket as we speak, as the T20 league starts in a few days, featuring Lancashire Lightning, who play at Old Trafford, where tickets are as cheap as a fiver for adults, and £1 for children! There is also the Ashes, the biannual Test contest between England and Australia starting at the beginning of August, with the fourth test to be played at Old Trafford from the 4th-8th of September.

 

 

I have found this Cricket World Cup delightful, with a number of shock results and dramatic matches and it seemed like fate intervened to make the final as close a match as you will ever see! I have regained an interest in cricket, a sport which I had largely ignored since I had stopped playing and it had disappeared from terrestrial TV (which is about 12-13 years ago (yes, I used to play, I was a left-handed fast bowler (and I was pretty terrible))) but I feel as though the attention this tournament has gained might reopen the game to poorer communities akin to its popularity in India and Australia.

I also hope the game might grow in my home nation of Ireland. England's captain, Eoin Morgan, has dual English and Irish nationality but came to play for England as Ireland did not have test-playing status. They do now, as of two years ago, but Morgan's visibility as an Irishman at the top of his game, even if playing for England, might spur on the popularity of the game at home and with full test-status allowing them to compete with the world's best teams on a regular basis, we could see a development of the sport on the Emerald Isle too.

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